Reading Beyond Class Requirements During Your Ph.D.

Reading takes up the majority of your time as a Ph.D. student. There is a seemingly endless amount to read for class, for research projects, and for building the general knowledge needed to succeed in the field. Throughout the first year of my Ph.D. program, I felt overwhelmed by the idea that I should be doing more reading (at least academic material) and writing outside of my courses. As I’ve adjusted to the strains of the program, I’ve found a reading schedule that works well for me.

I’ve started pushing myself to read a minimum of one chapter or article a day that additionally informs my general research interests. I recognize (and hope) that this doesn’t seem like much additional reading to academics. While in the throes of reading and writing for coursework, this little bit of additional daily reading adds up quite a bit though. Because many academic books about television and new media are five-to-ten chapters long, I’m getting through most books in less than a week. By doing this, I can read about 50 more books a year.

While reading, I make notes on a couple of things. First, I take notes on the key theoretical or methodological takeaways from each chapter or article I read. This helps me in returning to the book at a later date when I need to find specific information. Second, I use the chapter or article as a way of generating my list of future reading material. By doing this, I constantly have a growing list of books and articles I need to read, and I can track intellectual lineages back to their source.

As a final note, I think this strategy is also a useful way to approach reading for fun. Many people told me that I would no longer have time to read for fun while getting my grad degrees, but that time spent reading for fun has become essential to my daily relaxation. It’s extremely healthy for my mental state to read something that has nothing to do with my research, and I follow a fairly strict requirement of reading a certain amount for fun everyday (either one chapter or a certain number of pages depending on the book).

I kept track of all the media I consumed in 2017 on this blog last year, and I’m excited to see how different this year’s media journal looks after implementing my new reading strategy.

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